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2009 World Nomads Travel Photography Scholarship - Winner Announced

WORLDWIDE | Friday, 23 October 2009 | Views [27511] | Comments [122]

Of of Anna Zhu's winning photos.  See the whole set of 5 on Flickr (link below)

Of of Anna Zhu's winning photos. See the whole set of 5 on Flickr (link below)

Wow!  What an overwhelming response!  We received 1050 applications this year which created an enormous headache (in the nicest possible way) for our judges.  The quality of the work was also brilliant which just made the job even harder!

Congratulations to our winner, runners up and shortlisted applicants, who all submitted exceptional work.

31 finalists made it to Jason Edwards for his final selection.  After many grueling hours of painstaking assessment Jason has come up with a winner.

And the winner is...

Anna Zhu from Sydney, Australia

Judge's comments:

Anna’s portfolio was simple yet beautifully composed there were no weak images that I would have removed, no chinks in the armour so to speak. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing her portfolio and it illustrates that great stories are often just around the corner. Her captioning was concise, informative and moving. Sometimes a caption requires extensive detail and other times not, here I had all that was required to explain what was occurring in the frames. Likewise, Anna’s written component gave me an idea of who she was, what her intentions were with her photography, and what she hoped to gain from the experience.



See Anna Zhu's photo submissions

Anna Zhu's Written Submission

Below is Anna's answers to the written component of the competition.

Q: Please tell us about where you are currently doing? (e.g studying, working etc)
I graduated with a Visual Communications bachelor in May 2009, and am currently working as a freelance graphics designer as well as a casual photographic assistant to Sydney-based photographer Mark Rogers. I also volunteer weekly for Oxfam Australia as an art director and photographer.

Q Please tell us why you should be awarded the 2009 Travel Photography Scholarship to Antarctica?

I should be awarded the 2009 Scholarship to Antarctica because I’m passionate about people, travel and positive social change, and I’m eager to learn and grow as a professional documentary photographer.     I want to dedicate my life to documenting the small-scale narrative, the story and struggle of individuals or small communities, and how they may fit within a larger social concern. I aim to produce photo essays that are intimate yet strong in narrative, and that gives voice to those previously overlooked. I would like to inspire others with the stories of my subjects, and perhaps encourage people to be the change they wish to see in the world.    My ideal future clients would be international aid organisations and publications like NGM and COLORS. Aid organisations because they are a gateway to the places and communities where positive change is happening, and where I feel my craft could be the most effective. I would like to work for publications like the NGM because of the diversity and depth of their stories, and the respect with which they treat their images.    In this age of prolific photographic data, I aim to be a useful contribution to the art of photography, as well as the photographic community. Four months ago I started ShutterStutter (www.shutterstutter.com.au), a free monthly pub meet-up for emerging and professional photographers. ShutterStutter is where members can receive constructive criticism from their peers and help each other grow artistically and professionally.

Q Please describe your level of photographic experience?

I studied the photography electives in university, and my graduating project ‘Skin’ was a photographic narrative. (www.annazhu.com/skin)    Since March this year I have been assisting casually for photographer Mark Rogers.    For the past two years I have been volunteering regularly as a photographer for Oxfam Australia and the 40K Home Foundation.    I was a double finalist and semi-finalist in the '2009 Doug Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize', exhibiting at the State Library of New South Wales, a finalist in the 'Olive Cotton Photographic Award 2009', and highly commended in 'ACMP Projections 2009'.    This March, with the support of Oxfam Australia and UTS, I showcased my interactive photographic exhibition, 'I Will… Project', at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. The artwork highlights the individual’s role in environmental preservation. (www.iwillproject.org)    Technically, I am most confident working in medium format film. Film forces me to slow down and consider every element within the frame. I use a Mamiya 645AF with two fixed lenses, 80mm and 45mm. My favourite films are Kodak Portra and Fuji Provia.    I’ve spent a year in China, photographing and backpacking across the country through Tibet, Xinjiang and up to Mongolia, returning the next year to work in Shanghai, and then making my way through most of South-East Asia. I also studied in San Francisco for six months, and have travelled to England, France, Italy, Czech 

Second Place

David Lazar from Brisbane, Australia

Judge's comments:

David’s thoughtful portfolio shed new light on a subject normally portrayed very negatively. His image of donkeys pulling a heavy cart told a story very well in and of itself. Again, keeping the viewer involved in the composition and providing interesting written components strengthened David’s result.

See David Lazar's Photo Submissions.






Third Place

Richard Fairbrother from Beijing, China


Judge's comments:

Richard’s series on China was tight, well thought out and clever. He successfully used differing elements of life in China to communicate his theme. Richard’s images relied on their compositional strengths rather than excessive dodging and burning so prevalent in black and white, to create a strong image.

See Richard's photo submissions



The Short List (in alphabetical order):

Please check out the photos of our short-listed entrants.  Where the photos are in a set, the link goes to that set of 5 submission photos, otherwise the link goes to one of their photos within the group pool.

Nels Andereck (Japan)
Hüseyin Aysan (Sweden)
Dan Ballard (USA)
Nazrul Haider Chowdhury (Bangladesh)
Thomas Cristofoletti (Spain)
Andrea Davoust (Ecuador)
Vincent de Groot (France)
Michael Donovan (USA)
Varun Dutt (Japan)
Laura Fetherstonhaugh (Canada)
Goncalo Figueiredo (Portugal)
Anna Frenette (Canada)
Rory Gardiner (Australia)
Jeremy Hall (Australia)
Alexander Hedley (New Zealand)
Andrija Ilic (Faroe Islands)
Stephen Ironside (USA)
Michael Kelley (USA)
Bonnie Low (UK)
Rob McKerlie (Canada)
James Morgan (UK)
Ken Ng (Canada)
Jing Peng (China/Singapore)
Gunta Podina (Sweden)
Alexander Talamante (Mexico)
Temenuga Trifonova (Canada)
Taylor Weidman (USA)
Ethan Welty (USA)



The Judging Panel:

Our shortlist was created by Tina Seeto, Marketing Manager, National Geographic Channel & Simon Monk, Director, World Nomads, Chris Noble, General Manager World Nomads, Chris Potter, Creative Director World Nomads.

Our winner and runners up were selected by Jason Edwards, National Geographic on-assignment photographer.



A Final thought from Jason:

Hi Everybody,

As you will all be aware the judging for this year’s event is over and we have our winner, congratulations Anna! There were many wonderful entries, so many in fact the judges had a tough time narrowing down the finalists. I would like to thank everyone for his or her patience.

The competition was incredibly tight and especially so amongst the finalists where people were separated by only a point or two. At these times you cannot afford a weak image or to ignore any part of the judging criteria. There were several finalists I would love to take along based on their essays alone, people who had a vision of what they wanted their photography to be.

If you had not previously read my post on the judging process please see below, and if you have not read the submission guidelines then please do. Just because an entry made it to the final round does not preclude it from these criteria, in fact that is when the entry was critiqued the hardest.

So if you are looking at the finalists and scratching your head over a heavily manipulated image have no fear, they were penalised. If a particular image had no relevance to the story, have no fear they were penalised. Likewise for captioning and the written component. Ignore the judging process criteria at your own peril! I would strongly suggest everyone including the finalists, review their entries with the judging process criteria at hand and try to see where they may have lost a point or two.

In closing congratulations to everyone that took the time to produce a portfolio and enter. This in itself is a great exercise and strengthens your photographic ability in ways you may not realise. Please remember, what is most important about your images is what you capture at the time, not what you do to them on the computer or in the darkroom.

I hope to see you all again next year!

Best Wishes



The judging process

Jason has been generous enough to share with us the 10 key elements that formed the fabric of his selection proces;

1. Composition: Every element should have it's place in an image, even shadows and highlights.

2. Exposure: The exposure should match the tone and mood of the image, without manipulating the integrity of the subject matter.

3. Originality: There are more images being taken in the world today, but there are fewer photographers. See it differently.

4. Story: Every individual frame should tell a story, if an image doesn't do this then remove it.

5. Opinionated: Is your story opinionated? It does not have to be a moral or ethical viewpoint just your emotion coming through.

6. Depth: Have you explored your story or scraped the surface?

7. Captioning: Do not rely on an editor seeing everything you see in an image. Provide at least some background to what is happening in the frame.

8. Reason for why you should win: Always a personal viewpoint, entrants were ranked based on what people hoped to gain from the experience and what they hoped to contribute back to the greater community.

9. Willingness to learn: Very, very important! It is a scholarship, and the successful applicant had to be willing to learn, and in some cases re-learn elements of their photographic technique and how they behave as photographers.

10. Contribution to Photography: Did the images and story as a whole contribute something to the art of photography?


If you didn’t make the cut this year then don’t  worry SIGN UP TO THE MAILING LIST to find out about next year’s program,  which is already shaping up to be pretty exciting!!


Our Partners

On behalf of World Nomads I would like to thank all of our partners because let’s face it, without them our scholarship program would not have been possible.


National Geographic Channel invites viewers to live curious through its smart and innovative programming that questions what we know, how we view the world and what drives us forward.  NGC contributes to the National Geographic Society's commitment to exploration, conservation and education through its channels: National Geographic Channel, National Geographic Channel HD, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Adventure. Globally, National Geographic Channel is available in more than 315 million homes in 166 countries and 34 languages. For more information, please visit www.natgeotv.com.


Gap Adventures run a number of exciting adventure tours for small groups of independent travelers, taking you off the beaten track for a chance to really connect with nature and the local cultures.  If you share a lust of life and have the insatiable curiosity to travel and truly experience the world we live in, then Sign up to Gap Adventures' e-newsletter to be the first to hear about specials, great new trips and stories from the road.


C.R. Kennedy is the oldest Pentax distributor outside of Japan and Australia’s largest photographics distributor. Right now the new Pentax K-7 SLR, is the ultimate travel camera. Over a hundred weather seals make it dustproof and waterproof. It is compact, lightweight, with a sturdy alloy body and gives stunning results in both stills and HD and movies. Check out the product specs here


Michaels is the must visit destination for everyone interested in photography, video or digital devices. The Michael family has traded from the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets, Melbourne since 1916, and is now one of Australia's largest photographic specialists.  www.michaels.com.au

Columbia Established in 1938, Columbia Sportswear has over 70 years of experience making clothing and gear to help get you outside and keep you comfortable once you’re there. http://www.columbia.com/





Shortlisted! So close :)

It was fun and I enjoyed entering! Thanks so much for the opportunity, the winners certainly have some wonderful photos.

  Michael Kelley Oct 23, 2009 2:37 PM


I'm still stunned. Thank you Jason and World Nomads for giving me this opportunity! And thanks to all the other entrants, the strength of your photos really forced me to raise my game. Looking forward to sharing my words and images from Antarctica with everyone.

  Anna Zhu Oct 23, 2009 3:45 PM


Congratulations to the winner, I'm sure the trip will be great. However, in this particular case I think that the winner is an unfair choice. This isn't sour grapes because I'm not a photographer and I didn't even enter. The brief was to tell a story about a place and I think the winner has primarily told a story about people, not a place. I don't see how her portrait shot tells a story about a place, it could have been shot anywhere. The judge previously commented that each photo should tell a story about a place, as well as the whole set together. I don't think the winner has done that. I think it's a very disappointing result for all those people that focused on the place, as the brief directed them to.

  Meredith Oct 23, 2009 4:05 PM


well I thoroughly agree with Meredith (comment no. 3)

  pradeep chamaria Oct 23, 2009 4:29 PM


Good luck to the winner, really good on you girl, like the shot of your granddad in the kitchen, very beautiful image indeed; however, something seems wrong. I agree with Meredith's comments above plus how can the image of her grandparents standing outside with those ugly deep shadows all around not qualify as a weak image? Surreal.

  Jim Gent Oct 23, 2009 4:52 PM


So they just wanted portraits basically?

  John Appleby Oct 23, 2009 4:54 PM


Congratulations to the winner! She has one impressive portfolio. Although it doesn't exactly scream Travel Photography, I understand the objective was to reward an amateur photographer with great potential, which obviously is the case here. I'm sure she was as excited about Antarctica as we all were. And that brings me to my point: I think it would be interesting for everyone to see the essay that was submitted with the winning application. As a learning experience for all the applicants, but also to see the entire 'picture', since it was apparently an important part of the selection process. Thank you for giving this idea a thought.

  Martin B Oct 23, 2009 5:36 PM


Yes, portraits were the best way to effectively choose a candidate to take to photograph wildlife and scenery in Antarctica. I was really hoping to see some excellent and creative travel photographers in the final three, but right now I just see portraits and some mildly decent images mixed in? Not sure if this was really done right, but that's not up to any of us. The entrants were instructed to focus on a place (we were restricted to a country) as this is a travel photography scholarship. We were told to look at last year's winners to see what he did that took him above the rest. I'm sure people actually followed those instructions. If we had been told to gather up 5 intimate portraits from inside a house and use that to explain why we would benefit the most from an amazing opportunity in Antarctica, I'm sure we would have.

I'm not just speaking for myself here, it feels to a lot of people right now like this wasn't judged according to the outline.

I'm sure there must be some confusion here, could we get a little bit of a rundown of why this was so far removed from what I think too many people submitted?

  The Rest of the Contestants Oct 23, 2009 5:36 PM


I too am confused.....I thought I would see the winning entry consisting of travel and wildlife photography and followed that guideline in the photographs I chose to submit. Disappointed in the images chosen based on that criteria. Congratulations thought to Anna...I wish you all the best and sincerely hope you have a wonderful time with this unique opportunity. Looking forward to seeing your submissions. Safe travels everyone.

  Victoria Oct 23, 2009 5:52 PM


Good luck to the winner, really good on you girl, like the shot of your granddad in the kitchen, very beautiful image indeed; however, something seems wrong. I agree with Meredith's comments above plus how can the image of her grandparents standing outside with those ugly deep shadows all around not qualify as a weak image? Surreal.

  Jim Gent Oct 23, 2009 7:32 PM


Congratulations to the winner. I'm certain the trip will be great! I'm looking forward to seeing the resulting photographs and reading the blog entries it produces.

But I have to agree with the previous posters here about the task those who entered got and the images of the winner not adding up.

I should have just added more portraits of the Atlantic Puffins when I only used two actually. expono.com/netrex/albums/5616

  Alexander Evensen Oct 23, 2009 8:15 PM


Well, while we encourage people to offer their opinions, I think people should perhaps look a little more closely at Anna's work. While they might be low key, they are all very strong, the sort of images that you return to again and again. Jim, try looking at the high resolution image of her parents outside their apartment for example. Beautifully composed, perfect detail, and a gentle grace to the portrait. I don't know about anyone else, but even in my own collection, sometimes I can miss the best images because they aren't the sort that immediately leap out at you.

I haven't seen Anna's written submission but I'll see if we can't get this published here.

  simon_monk Oct 23, 2009 10:10 PM


Congratulations Anna, the story your photos tell is quite touching, you deserve to win.

  Chris Oct 24, 2009 12:17 AM


I so agree with other contestants. Congratulation Anna, you must be so excited...but I personally was shocked! Wow that's it? I don't see story in most of this pictures, nor anything that would tell me more about the place...

There were so many amazing entries in the pool...

  J.T. Oct 24, 2009 12:27 AM


Shortlisted! More than I'd hoped for.

Simon, or Jason, or anyone: is there a way to have the links to the "shortlistees'" images posted along with their name? I'd rather not have to look each one up individually...

What about judges comments on the shortlist like last year?

Also, it would be great if the shortlistees could find out what "place" they really came in (i.e., a shortlist that's not in alphabetical order). I don't want or need to know the names of the people who were ahead of me or behind me, but knowing exactly where I stood in the judging process would most likely help me in my endeavors.

(And I agree with the rest--Anna's image of her grandparents outside her house wouldn't be my first choice. I'll leave it at that.)

  Stephen Ironside Oct 24, 2009 1:48 AM


Shortlisted! More than I'd hoped for.

Simon, or Jason, or anyone: is there a way to have the links to the "shortlistees'" images posted along with their name? I'd rather not have to look each one up individually...

What about judges comments on the shortlist like last year?

Also, it would be great if the shortlistees could find out what "place" they really came in (i.e., a shortlist that's not in alphabetical order). I don't want or need to know the names of the people who were ahead of me or behind me, but knowing exactly where I stood in the judging process would most likely help me in my endeavors.

(And I agree with the rest--Anna's image of her grandparents outside her house wouldn't be my first choice. I'll leave it at that.)

  Stephen Ironside Oct 24, 2009 1:50 AM


Interesting that the first and second place are both from Australia and do not have, what I would call, particularly strong portfolio's.

I understand that this contest was supposed to be about the photo and not the editing, but I think doing simple things like setting your white and black points and dodging and burning a little should be acceptable, even photojournalists do that. In fact, capturing your image is a skill, knowing which image to chose is another, and knowing how to present it is a skill as well.

If someone captures amazing color it doesn't necessarily mean they completely saturated the photo. Maybe they just captured amazing color.

That being said congrats to Anna. Make the best of this incredible chance

  Kris Mau Oct 24, 2009 2:55 AM


Wow thanks for shortlisting me! And a huge congrats to Anna on this wonderful opportunity.

I do have a question for all the other shortlisted candidates though-- did you receive an email request for your raw/unedited photos? I didn't get that at all and just wondering if it was a stand alone case or because of the size of the shortlisted pool no one ever got asked.

  Jing Peng Oct 24, 2009 3:29 AM


wow, even more disappointed in the selections (and the judge's comments) than last year. they are very nice photos in and of themselves, but the judges don't even follow their own, very explicit guidelines for this contest (story of a place, consistency of images within the story). of the top 3, #3 accomplished the goal far better. after seeing the results and the comments from the past 2 years, i'm not sure this contest is worth all the effort and thought, especially considering all the criteria, comments, and tips that everyone carefully studied and followed, but the judges didn't even apply.

  disappointed Oct 24, 2009 4:33 AM


Well, even though I'm disappointed that I'm not in the finalists but I think Anna pictures do tell a story.
About the topic "A place you've visited": It's her grandparents' house, a place that she truly love. She has known the place for a long time and it is filled with her memories. Since when a home is not a place?

Also, she also notes in the image captions that her grandparents are immigrants and that due to their ages, they have hard time/or don't want to change their habits/ customs. Isn't it a story about the life of 2 old lovers in a strange place? Isn't it full of life?

Congrats Anna!
And nice day everybody.

Wish me luck next year maybe :)

  Hieu Oct 24, 2009 5:08 AM


Yes, I have to agree that the winner did a great job with the assignment. Lovely photos.

  Michael Kelley Oct 24, 2009 5:19 AM


yes, they do tell a story, a very nice story, but it is a story of people, of a couple, not of a place. yes, a home is a place, but it is not a story of their home, it is a story of the people. if it is a story of a home, then how does the portrait, photo 5, fit in? i know, i know, we could go on forever about how the people relate to the place...place/ people, people/ place, blah blah blah. sour grapes on my part. Congrats to the winner.

  disappointed Oct 24, 2009 5:49 AM


Congrats Anna. Lucky you. You'll have a great time no doubt. But I can't quite work out why the shots selected were considered the best. The portrait of Yaya is great, yes and I like the shot looking from above of the hands but the other three look like fairly ordinary images compared to some of the other contestants. The shot of the grandparents outside to me is weakened considerably by the unwieldy shadows and resembles a family snapshot from the 60s. This selection does however appear to be part of the current genre emerging among the indi set of late teens and 20 somethings which is a more retro style that takes its roots from that 60s era of composition. If that's where the judges are now coming from then I guess Anna hit the mark. If this is where we are heading I feel like throwing the camera out the window. I expected the winner to have a series of shots that blew me away with a 'wow!" where I felt I'd been beaten by a clear winner. That didn't happen. I actually thought the second and third place getters were much better. But such is life with a subjective art and where people have to lay points against taste. It will always be thus with art. Until next year. And for Anna, sorry if I sound critical. Good luck to you for winning but it's not always easy to wear the winners mantle. Still you get the benefits to assuage the pain. Cheers

  Stu Oct 24, 2009 7:40 AM


Interesting that the first and second place are both from Australia and do not have, what I would call, particularly strong portfolio's.

I understand that this contest was supposed to be about the photo and not the editing, but I think doing simple things like setting your white and black points and dodging and burning a little should be acceptable, even photojournalists do that. In fact, capturing your image is a skill, knowing which image to chose is another, and knowing how to present it is a skill as well.

If someone captures amazing color it doesn't necessarily mean they completely saturated the photo. Maybe they just captured amazing color.

That being said congrats to Anna. Make the best of this incredible chance

  Kris Mau Oct 24, 2009 8:22 AM


Don't refresh after you have posted. You keep posting the same post again... There is a message when this happens, so read it, don't just refresh (in FF at least).

  Alexander Evensen Oct 24, 2009 8:44 AM


Why bother clearly setting a brief to tell a story about a place? The winner's photos do not do that, especially as at least two of the five are portraits and have no relevance to place. I understand she is attempting to convey her grandparent's home as the place, but no one could argue that this is the main focus of her pictures. The main focus is the people and their relationships. Many entrants obviously spent much time composing their set of pictures to truly focus on the character of a particular place, and to see this particular person rewarded for paying little attention to the actual brief is insulting, unprofessional and unfair. The beauty of the actual images is ,in fact, irrelevant in this case. A wonderful essay that doesn't answer the question should never be awarded top marks, and this case is exactly the same. I will not be encouraging students to enter this contest in the future and am very disappointed with the result.

  Senior Lecturer, College of Fine Arts, University of NSW Oct 24, 2009 11:40 AM


Was this rigged? No, seriously, was it?

  Chris Oct 24, 2009 12:21 PM


Well, hasn't this been a learning experience. It's great to know that next time I want to win a travel photography competition and tell a story about a place I should take portrait photographs of my grandfather. How enlightening...

  Very disappointed Oct 24, 2009 12:24 PM


I agree, I think that everyone who finds this judgement mysterious or unfair should register their feelings here. I would also like call on the judge to explain his choice in terms of how each of the winner's pictures tells a story about a place. The prize was valuable and this is a very serious concern.

  Meredith Oct 24, 2009 12:29 PM


Dear Anna,
Congratulations! I hope you have an awesome trip and I am looking forward to your pictures and blog. As you read these comments don't get discouraged because they are not directed at you. People are just disappointed and this is an easy way for them to express it. You did a great job and I hope your expedition is amazing.

Everyone else, keep moving forward - life's too short to let one speed bump bring you down.

  Dr. Proctor Oct 24, 2009 1:29 PM


I agree with most of the comments here. Yes, Anna has a wonderful set of photos there. If the contest rules had said to shoot a story of a person she would have totally nailed it.

I think the picture of Yah Yah in the kitchen is exquisite. It made me want to see more of his flat, and his world.

However Jason said there were no weak links in her portfolio. With the assignment being to shoot a place, how can the final shot of Yah Yah be anything but? No, not just a weak link, but a flat out broken link. Place? We have no idea if that picture was even taken in her Grandparents' flat. The white background eliminates all sense of place.

I think the thing that disappoints me most about this is that I thought the fact that I’m not a portrait photographer wouldn’t be a factor here. The assignment was to shoot a place, and the prize was to go shoot at a place with no native human population. Yes, pictures of people can be an important element when shooting a place, but they aren’t always required, so I didn’t feel I needed to shoot somewhere with people.

Anna truly does have talent, and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of images she brings back from Antarctica. I just wish I didn't know that I'll be looking at them wondering if the fact that the judges knew she was from Australia was a factor in her being chosen. Times are tough. Why pay international airfare if you don't have to?

  Not a portrait photographer... Oct 24, 2009 1:58 PM


Keep in mind that they have to fly to Argentina anyway, and I think the fact that the finalists are from AUS doesn't really hold any water. If they were all from South America, that'd be one thing :p

  Michael Kelley Oct 24, 2009 2:07 PM


I have to agree with the previous comments. Anna's pictures are interesting but don't respond to the basic brief adequately. They shouldn't even have been short-listed on those grounds. I notice that there has been no comment from the judge addressing this concern. Won't be entering this competition again in the future.

  Kim Oct 24, 2009 4:22 PM


This has been a very discouraging experience. I tried very hard to focus my efforts on capturing the spirit and essence of a place, when actually the winner was rewarded for her portraiture. What a load of garbage.

  Pablo Oct 24, 2009 4:28 PM


Congratulations to Anna! I know it was a difficult choice for the judges to make with all the incredible entries... still... I must admit that I am very disappointed that the pictures in my entry were never even viewed by the judging panel. I took the time and effort to write an essay and select my shots. I found out about the contest very late, and although I wasn't able to attach a couple of the pictures that I had in mind for my theme of a colorful African continent, I still feel that my photos deserved to be viewed by at least one judge. Two of my entries have 0 views and the other 3 that were viewed had comments by persons that were obviously not judges. If the judges can't make time to view all entries, perhaps they should set a limit on the number of entries for a particular contest.

  ProlificTravelr Oct 24, 2009 5:27 PM


Hi there congrats to the winner and runner up. The assignment though was clear to photograph a place ? I love the runner up's work much more , Although they also have people in their shots there is a definite story of a place , and a strong one indeed. I just don't understand how this all works really. reading through the comments and some people's work not even being viewed . Well congrats Anna you are going to have and awesome time and you will be expanding your photography. Very well done to the runners up love the story in in your pictures , love it

  Yolandie Janse van REnsburg Oct 24, 2009 5:35 PM


OK, so here was the brief: "Shoot a series of photos that tell a story about a place you have visited." Note that it doesn't say "Shoot a series of photographs of a place" nor does it say "Shoot a series of landscapes about a place you have visited". Why on earth does anyone for a moment think people or portraits are somehow excluded? Is this planet not inhabited by some 6 billion people?

I would have to disagree with the Senior Lecturer from the College of Fine Arts at the University of NSW and I suggest people look again at Anna's images in this context. They tell a story about a place ... although which place exactly is perhaps ambiguous not quite the one that you physically see in the images such as the story of migration and the places of the past. (my opinions not Jasons).

We go to considerable lengths to provide these opportunities and although we are passionate travellers and creative people we certainly don't have the skills to decide such an important and difficult decision and we are incredibly fortunate to have Jason who takes the whole decision very seriously indeed, so I'm not even going to respond to the facetious comment about the Scholarship being rigged.

These are my views at least although I haven't spoken to Jason but I will ask him to respond to some of these criticisms.

Early next week I will try to have Anna's written submission posted up here and ensure that all the shortlisted candidates work is linked to so everyone can compare for themselves.

With all of the World Nomads Travel Scholarships, we have many entries and this one more than any other. There was always going to be one winner and 1049 disappointed entrants, many of whom had excellent work. As usual, the standard was very high. As I said above, you are welcome to disagree and criticise us, but please refrain from facetious insults.

We look forward to continuing to offer these fascinating opportunities to travellers.

Simon Monk
Founder, WorldNomads.com

  simon_monk Oct 24, 2009 9:12 PM


Wow passionate responses from all around. Anna's portfolio on her photography website is great stuff but I'm not going to take sides.

I do think, however, that the controversy surrounding the result is something to think about. The fact that so many contestants found a disconnect between the winning entry and the assignment brief points to a problem: the FULL intent of the competition wasn't clear enough in the assignment brief for the contestants, even if it seemed clear to the organisers.

Sure, some comments can be taken as "facetious" but perhaps the organisers could also take the chance to think more carefully over how they can communicate next year's assignment brief. Because the current wording (something about the phrase "story about a place") does tend to mislead people.

The competition's over. A talented photographer is going on a trip of a lifetime (Anna, please bring plenty of seasick pills and a swimsuit-- the polar plunge is amazing!) Can we all just move on and learn from this mistake so that future competitions are better thought out?

  Jing Peng Oct 25, 2009 12:03 AM


Anna, well done! I'm sorry that there were so many unhappy comments about your entry, I hope you don't feel downhearted by them - you did WIN after all! I don't know if I really expected to win, but I can say it was a great opportunity to work on my photography skills. I've never studied photography or anything, so it's all just self-taught. The day I went to shoot my series, I actually turned down a triple pay shift at work, as I thought this shoot would be my entry for this competition. And on top of this, I had to get up extra early and trudge outside in the pouring rain! Alas, now that I know I didn't win, it means I can go on my trip to Berlin (that I had already booked, but was willing to sacrifice for the chance to go to Antarctica), so I guess I'm a winner after all! Many great photo opportunities out there too!
So Anna, I hope you have a GREAT time in Antarctica and learn loads!!
God bless,

  Margaux Smale Oct 25, 2009 12:57 AM


Thank you everyone. We welcome feedback and debate on all of our programs.

We also, as outlined above by our founder, put great trust in our partners and in Jason, as an on assignment photographer for National Geographic with many years experience, to make a final decision on who he feels will benefit most from this learning opportunity.

Last years chosen winner, Nelson Mouëllic of Canada, produced excellent work (as seen via the link below). We have utmost faith in Jason's decision that Anna will also deliver to the same high standards.


Once again, congratulations Anna for winning and thank you to all that have taken the time to share their opinions, no matter how different, your passion for this program is inspiring.

Chris Noble
General Manager

  Chris Noble Oct 25, 2009 1:29 AM


We are all looking forward to next year's scholarship. I am also looking forward to reading the comments of the judges on the shortlisted entries to enrich our knowledge. Also, some suggestions:
1. A confirmation email can be sent once an applicant submits the application (just to be sure that we are IN)
2. Photos can be made private (viewable only by World Nomads) till last date of submission to prevent copying of ideas (and in some genuine cases, there could be an idea overlap but it might look otherwise)
3. Participants can be asked to do a ranking of top 5 entries (excluding self) once the application closes till before announcement to get an idea of the participants' favourites.
4. Jason said that individual judges shortlist different people. It would also be great if the individual short listed people could be listed. (It will be good to see if the participant atleast was shortlisted by one of 'em)

  Sriram Oct 25, 2009 5:26 AM


Another suggestion. How about Jason reviews all the submissions? 1050 = 210 submissions, looking through sets of 5 and 5 images doesn't take too long sorting out the worst and leaving the better for a closer review later. Even starting this process before the closing date for submissions has arrived to take some of the work load off for when it is closed.

  Alexander Evensen Oct 25, 2009 6:36 AM


Thank you Alexander & Sriram for your suggestions, will definitely look at these and happy to field any other ideas.

We're always looking to strengthen our programs where we can, so the constructive feedback is warmly received.


Chris Noble
General Manager

  Chris Noble Oct 25, 2009 9:20 AM


As a follow-up to comments #41, 42 and 43 posted here, I would like to see WorldNomads highlight the definition of a professional photographer for the purpose of future photo contests. This definition is missing in the "The Judging Process" abstract detailed here by Jason Edwards. The present 2009 photo contest was flawed because lots of the entries came from pros, including Anna Zhu. www.annazhu.com/. It seemed that some participants and judges had completely ignored the 2009 contest entry rule: that pros do not qualify.

I commend WorldNomads for accepting all photo submissions with no money asked. Please keep this tradition on-going.

Attn WorldNomads judges: If I may suggest these for the 2010 Travel Photography contest: 1. Emphasize that pros should keep out of the contest in the interest of fair competition destined for the hobbyists only. 2. Limit two photos per participant. The participant must fill out the "Profile" in his/her FLICKR account. 3. Limit the number of words in the photo caption to about ten. A strong image should be able to convey the story/message without any word. Think Fine Art. 4. Cancel the written essay portion but stipulate that the participant must be fluent in English for the purpose of journal-keeping during the trip.

I still like the idea of a visible "pool of photo submissions", as opposed to Sriram's (#41). James

  James Ahlan Oct 25, 2009 12:44 PM


I knew since beginning that there will be a lot of fantastic participants, but honestly I agree with above arguments and feel very disappointed.

Never could imagine such images selected. Is good for the girl to have the opportunity to win as will be for anyone, so anyway, congratulations and good luck! Although I still can not understand.

  Vilma Oct 25, 2009 1:12 PM


Thank you everyone who has shown their support, it is much appreciated! I will make the most of this amazing opportunity - rest assure that I will not take it lightly.

Though I never expected to win, I am surprised at how much discussion my entries have caused. I believe I have fulfilled the brief, though my interpretation of it may have been different to others. I welcome constructive criticism on my work, and I second all the comments on the strength of the shortlisted entries.

I do not welcome erroneous assumptions, as in the case of #44 James Ahlan. I am chuffed you seem to think of me as a pro, but all the photographic work on my website are university assignments and travel photos, with no commercial connection whatsoever. I am however, a professional graphic designer, and looking to come a professional photographer.

Jason did stipulate who would be considered 'professional'. You must have missed it.

  Anna Zhu Oct 25, 2009 1:54 PM


Anna Zhu is pro. Is supossed she shoudnt. Just check this website http://www.annazhu.com/.
You said guys, that a bad picture take down the story, and her #1 with those big shadows is not a good picture, so the story is down.
I saw great pictures at the pool of photo submissions, but this one, dont surprised me anything. I was expecting something outstanding, and I didnt feel it like that.

Just read this, from her page:
"Anna Zhu is a Sydney based freelance photographer and designer. She graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney in 2009 with a combined Bachelor of Design in Visual Communications and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies China.
Anna is a passionate documentary portrait photographer..."

You guys, have to focussed more in your instructions, your words. You didnt take care of it.

  Somebody from somewhere Oct 25, 2009 2:14 PM


Another way to show that she is pro.

Anna Zhu
Independent Photography Professional

Sydney Area, Australia
Contact Anna Zhu
Add Anna Zhu to your network

  Somebody from somewhere Oct 25, 2009 2:33 PM


Hi Somebody, I would really like to clear up any suggestions that I disregarded the competition requirements.

The guideline is that anyone who receives 25% or more of their income from photography is regarded as a semi-professional. Check out comments #44 and #45 on http://journals.worldnomads.com/scholarships/post/32554.aspx

I have been working as a graphic designer. If I had commercial photographic work to show, it would be on my website to help generate more clients. But alas I have not been lucky enough.

Thank you for checking out my site!

  Anna Zhu Oct 25, 2009 2:44 PM


i'm also very disappointed with overall decision. According to jason's guidelines each photo should tell a story. I don't see portraiture of Yah Yah doesn't tell a story about a place! Please check out Anna' a website www.annazhu.com very impressive but hard to believe she's an amateur!this was suppossed to be a chance for passionate learner not a pro.I think those pictures could win in "people's story' category not place we visited. Still those pictures do not tell a story about place at all!! More a person and his past. So shocking to me the choice this year, unfair...

  Mary jane Oct 25, 2009 3:14 PM


To Anna Zhu: I am glad you have used this international forum to dispel any misunderstanding on my part (entry #44). Please accept my most sincere apologies. Antarctica is heaven for graphic designers. (I am thinking of lines, tones, light and shadow). You will undoubted be in your element there. Enjoy your trip.

If I may suggest this to WorldNomads, for the 2010 Travel Photography contest: Let the contest be open to all, including pros. The Annual Nikon International Photo contest has set the standard on this sort of competition. James

  James Ahlan Oct 25, 2009 3:17 PM


I disagree with James. This competition is 'a learning experience'. If someone is a 'pro' they are on a good way...let it be an opportunity for amateurs, and hobbyists and all who want to become photographers. I have to disagree with comment #44...as well.
why 2 pictures only? You have choice up to 5, let those with 5 good images show them. Why limit captioning to 10 words...???
The format of this competition is good as it is.

  Ali Oct 25, 2009 3:29 PM


Following up on what someone else has said, I'd also love to see the finalists' submissions on here sometime soon. Just a link to their flickr photo set would be great. Really want to see the other entries and it'll be a great way for the people to get more exposure.

Thanks for considering!

  Jing Peng Oct 25, 2009 5:11 PM


No worries James, I should be flattered you think my work is of pro-level.

  Anna Zhu Oct 25, 2009 6:52 PM


I read a bit above, the contest should be opened to fluent in english. Great, we should limit to Australia then. A lot of country are english spoken, doesn't mean other foreigners couldn't have a chance. I travel since more than one year for photography, i probably submit some average pictures, i know it, but we should open a bit more our minds, it's about photography, not a writting.
About the winner, i don't know what to think really, like above i was shocked by the quality of the first picture, the shadows, but probably i missed something, i'm not professional after all...

  Eddie Mittelette Oct 25, 2009 8:50 PM


#42 - Hi Alexander, no we had over 1050 people enter so you can do your maths the other way: 1050 x 5 photographs = 6,000 photographs to go through. Yes, it was quite a task, which is why we divided getting to a shortlist between the judges this year and the shortlist then went to Jason.

  simon_monk Oct 25, 2009 9:17 PM


I really like Sriram's suggestions (comment no.41). In particular I would like to have received some confirmation that my entry had been received.

In the Flickr group, when there was an announcement saying "we need a few more days due to the overwhelming response" which was posted around (just before) 23rd Oct. In that announcement, I believe they said that they would be emailing all applicants to let us all know who the winners were. I never recieved an email. Did anyone else? This makes me worry that I my entry was not even received (after all those hours!)...

Perhaps it could also be emphasised more clearly as to what is meant by "professional" and "non-professional" - although it seems obvious enough, (and has been defined after an enquiry in the comments section of the brief) there is obviously a grey line between the two. (Anna has defended herself quite clearly here though! - it is bizarre that some stranger would think that they know better than she does as to her status in that regard!)

Alexander Evensen (comment no. 42) - I believe there were 1050 APPLICANTS not 1050 photographs (from 210 applicants) as you seem to be implying, I think.

Yes, like many, I'm bitterly disappointed. Hard not to be when a) it's a trip of a lifetime - literally, the best prize imaginable; and b) you've spent many many long hours preparing an entry and trying to fit everything you want to say into just 300 words. I am very slightly surprised by the winning entry (although it is very strong - there were over 4000 photographs in that pool, so the chances are most of us would be surprised), but I don't feel that there has been some great miscarriage of justice, as others seem to be suggesting.

It is disheartening to lose, especially when there has been no acknowledgement that the entry was even received, and it would be wonderful to get some individual critique / more idea of where we (who were not shortlisted) were going wrong - but I realise of course that the judges do not have time to provide this. Just having links (or even their flickr names so we could actually do a search for them) to the shortlisted candidates would be informative. I suppose that I never really let myself hope against hope that this dream would actually have been realised for me. Photography - any artform - in a brief this wide and loosely-constrained - is just too subjective... The judge(s) would have to really "get" you based on the strength of your 5 photos, captions, and 300 word (only) written submitment, and this too is such a personal thing. It is so hard to sell yourself and how much this means to you when you don't know the personality or personal tastes of the judge. How much information/ commentary / enthusiasm is deemed "too much"? Where to draw the line, what to focus on, how to balance it - when you've got only 300 words to say your bit..? The chances were just too slim...

Although the competition format is good I think, it would be nice to see the brief narrowed in some way to be more specific. Obviously the number of entrants was massively increased from last year so the problem was exaccerbated. The prize in question - photographing wildlife in antarctica - attracts certain sorts of photographers (wildlife photographers in particular, and travel photographers too), I think, whilst the "storyline" brief perhaps puts a more documentary-style approach in a stronger light. I would suggest that perhaps it is this slight non-sequeter that has got people so upset? But perhaps the winner's life's ambition is to be a wildlife photographer and she wrote about that in her essay? It seems unlikely, given her chosen subject matter, but we don't know... (yet). Perhaps it's not, and that fact does not matter to the judge(s); and they just see potential in her to develop to be a broader photographer in the long run. Actually looking at the judge's preferences (in terms of genre) from last year maybe more of us could have realised this.

Anna - Congratulations. Your photographs are beautiful, I love the variety of them, and I think the story they tell is very strong. Of course it shows your integrity as a photographer that you chose to compose a story and carry out a shoot in such an intimate and personal environment. These photographs are worthy of National Geographic (The Magazine).

Just my twopence worth, anyway...

  Clara Oct 25, 2009 11:23 PM


To Eddie Mittelette, entry #55: English is the language of choice dictated by WorldNomads Inc. WorldNomads Inc requires an essay submission to accompany the photos. And WorldNomads Inc requires the day-to-day journal entries to be submitted after the trip. All in English. That's the reason why I think the caption accompanying an image has to be limited to just a few words, e.g. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. (See Ali's, #52). Participants who are not fluent in English will thus stand a better chance to win, based solely on the impact of their pictures. To level the playing field in the future, I suggest that WorldNomads Inc limits the length of the caption and do away with the written English (essay-writing and journal-keeping).

Without the captions, nobody would be able to "read" from Anna Zhu's pictures that her grandfather is suffering from Alzheimer's. (My prayers go to him and his family). Zhu's captions are very effective in winning the judges' hearts. And she won without breaking the contest rules. James

  James Ahlan Oct 25, 2009 11:37 PM


I consider the winners photos outstanding and worthy of the prize.

With amazing delicacy, Anna has managed to evoke the feeling and stories of her grandparents home. In only five photographs, I've gained a real impression of the story of her grandparents place. I think that beautifully fulfils the brief and would sit very comfortably alongside an article on immigrant families in National Geographic (which is, after all, what we are aspiring to).

I applaud the judges for their decision and I applaud Anna for her amazing photos.

  Paul Conaghan Oct 25, 2009 11:57 PM


I see that I did the calculation the other way around.

Still, starting to review the submitted images when they start arriving might help out instead of waiting for the competition to end. Not talking about a final judgement here, just to sort out the best so they can be reviewed later when the submission date is passed.

It will certainly be interesting to read the 300 word essay by Anna Zhu if if it's published, and see what Jason Edwards say about the chose winner, if he does (more than what's already posted).

Since the winner is not only going to take photographs and assist Jason Edwards, but also write a blog about the trip, I do think the captions as they are and the 300 word essay is important to keep in the competition.

  Alexander Evensen Oct 26, 2009 12:07 AM


To Mary Jane, entry #50 re: portraiture.
A "traditional" portrait of a person or a group of persons occupies almost the entire space of the picture frame, with the background and foreground areas lending no information to the "spirit of the place". For example, the Green-eyed Afghan Girl by Nat Geog photographer Steve McCurry.

On the other hand, you have the "Environmental Portrait", in which the background and foreground elements impart a strong message behind the people in the picture. For example, the weeping Peruvian boy with a flock of dead sheep in the background; by Nat Geog photographer William Allard.

Zhu's winning entries have both the traditional portrait and the environmental portraits of her grandfather.

It seemed to me that you are not in favour of traditional portraits being submitted to the WorldNomads 2009 Travel Photography photo contest, in which the "spirit of the place" is given more emphasis. It's up to WorldNomads to clarify "Portraiture" to avoid any misunderstanding in future contests.

The judges have the correct definitions. James

  James Ahlan Oct 26, 2009 12:38 AM


What fantastic debate from all. As mentioned before, we are very open to all constructive feedback re the program and will do our best to improve every year we run it.

I'd just like to re-enforce one thing. We are proud to provide this type of opportunity. We are committed to giving everyone a fair and equal chance at winning. We will always endeavor to have our judges choose who they feel will most benefit from a scholarship opportunity.

We are committed to providing programs that let your build your skills and share your talents with everyone.

Thank you again for the suggestions, we will be collating them all and review for next years travel photography scholarship.

Chris Noble
General Manager

  Chris Noble Oct 26, 2009 9:20 AM


I have been awaiting the winner's announcement for weeks. Going over some of the competition I knew that I would not win this year because of the strength and beauty of so many other submissions. But the winning photograph left me shocked! I can't believe that snapshot looking picture took first place...!?!
Losing to that feels weird.
Must be even worse for the 2nd and 3rd place winners whose images and stories were inspiring.
The upside to this is that I DO actually stand a chance at winning this competition someday because it seems powerful photography is not what the judges are looking for. No offense Anna. I've looked at your site and see that you do capture some amazing images. I also saw other samples of that snapshot in front of someone's house. Seems it's a style you shoot... often. Looking forward to seeing the images you bring back from Antartica. Congratulations.

  Lorraine Oct 26, 2009 10:19 AM


Hi Everyone,
Thanks for your comments about the information you'd like to see posted here with regards to the Scholarship results. I have just updated the Shortlist and added links to their photos and country...
Please keep adding your constructive thoughts; as Chris Noble (#62) mentions, we will be collating all this input for next year's Photo Scholarship process.

  scholarships Oct 26, 2009 10:30 AM


You guys are beautiful......thanks for the oportunity to participated.....congratulations to the winner and
happiness for all

Felipe fittipaldi

  felipe fittipaldi Oct 26, 2009 10:32 AM


To Lorraine (item #63): To make you feel better, please think of a vaporous zone separating a "snapshot" from a "Fine Art" shot-especially in a Travel Photography context. Then, please tell yourself that the beauty of the "shot" is in the eyes and hearts of the viewers.

The famous writer Germaine Greer is no pro-photographer. Her essay on the legendary photographers Jane Bown and Henri Cartier-Bresson provides a clue of what lies in that vaporous zone.

The link is http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2007/sep/23/photography


  James Ahlan Oct 26, 2009 12:47 PM


I'd still like to hear from an official of the contest about the fact that some of the entrants didn't have their pictures viewed.

  ProlificTravelr Oct 26, 2009 1:13 PM


Would it be possible for the people who were shortlisted to get an e-mail with their actual placement? Jason said he had all of the scores laid out in a spreadsheet, so it would not be difficult at all. It would be great for us to find out if we were 4th, 15th, or 31st so we have a better idea for next year (and for resume information!). Last year's shortlistees at least got comments on their work...we didn't get anything. The full list of shortlistees' names and placements aren't necessary or wanted, just individual placements in a personal e-mail. Just a thought.

  Stephen Ironside Oct 26, 2009 2:18 PM


My photos disappeared from the pool after I submitted them and I will never know if the judges viewed them so a confirmation e-mail when we submit our material would be great and an easy change to make. I know others had a similar issue and I sure it drove them crazy too.

Besides that, I think this competition is great and I hope it continues for a long time.

  Dr. Proctor Oct 26, 2009 3:21 PM


Looking at the shortlisted submissions, the mission brief should say "a story about a place, with people". There was maybe one submission in the shortlist without any people in it..

  Dejected one.. Oct 26, 2009 7:06 PM


Overall,I am disappointed. A misleading brief.. Anna's images tell a beautiful story but 'the story' is not about the place, it is about the people. If it is ok that 'the place' is ambiguous then maybe just make the brief 'a story' or forget the brief altogether since following the logic of Simon(#37) almost any sequence with people refers back to place. I agree that images of people can tell a story about place but I do not agree that Anna's images are a strong story about place which I think should have been evident in the winner's work.
However, in regards to other people's criticisms of Anna being a 'pro'. Anyone can have a website! I have no issue here. I would much rather have the winner be someone who is passionate enough to have dropped everything and studied photography than any other 'amateur' who thinks they should be given a break just for entering. Why shouldn't someone who 'is on their way' win anyway? - it demonstrates a pre existing passion and commitment. Keeping this in mind before I get cranky again, I say to Anna - have a wonderful time!!

  Emma Oct 26, 2009 8:36 PM


@Dejected one: you can tell the story of a place using a variety of people as a conduit. That's partly what street photography is about.

  JP Oct 26, 2009 11:36 PM


Hi All,

Congratulations Anna your images are strong and very moving. Your heart is on your sleeve here. If you can bring these qualities to your trip to Antartica then I'm looking forward to an insightful take on a unique place.

Regarding Anna being a "Pro" photographer there was clarification about this from World Nomads stating that upto 25% of a person's income from photography was okay. From what I gather Anna is just starting out and this is as an important learning oppotunity for Anna as it would be for the rest of us.

However, I would agree with Emma (#71) that the wording of the brief was a bit misleading. Simon (#37) your brief was 'Shoot a series of photos that tell a story about a place you have visited.' I think the key part to that brief for many people is "a story about a place". Especially with World Nomads being a travel company and all! People and culture are of course central (but not exclusive) to our experiences travelling the world, but as James pointed out in post #61 there is a difference between traditional and environmental portraits. Your written brief implies environmental but obviously you had a wider scope in mind. Something to bear in mind for next year?

@James, thanks for the link (#66), I'd not come across Jane Bown's work before, and I really like it.

Thanks everyone, see you here next year! :-)

  Alan Humphris Oct 27, 2009 1:24 AM


@ Alan Humphris, entry #73. You're welcomed! Traditionally, Travel Photography contests are split into these categories: "PEOPLE" and "PLACES". "PEOPLE" covers the environmental portrait, emphasis being on a telling background/foreground to reveal a story about the subject (people)in the environment shown. This category disqualifies the traditional portrait. It is a fact that different viewers will interprete the story behind the picture in different ways. (That's where a FINE ART shot separates from a SNAPSHOT). Travel photojournalists dwell in this domain, showing the world their snapshots and their Fine Art shots. PEOPLE and CULTURES go hand in hand in this category.

"PLACES" covers landscape with or without people, seascape with or without people, flower garden without the macro shots of flowers, streetscape/townscape with buildings, people or absence of people. "PLACES" can be further categorised under NATURE, strictly without people. NATURE should be about wildlife and places unchanged by humans.

This leads to the fact that the rules of a photo contest must be clearly defined. Furthermore, the contest must "fit" the prize. For example, ANTARCTICA should be under the category of NATURE. Is it wishful thinking on my part that the 2010 contest may be categorised under PLACES with the prize being "PUSHKAR CAMEL FAIR" under the mentorship of Steve McCurry, the famous travel photojournalist?

Forum members here may ask: Who is this guy yapping away? My pro-career is in Engineering. I am a self-taught photographer, avid traveler and I am still ignorant of the virtue of the Adobe PhotoShop. That's my two cents worth for the day. James

  James Ahlan Oct 27, 2009 5:03 AM


I have a feeling some people here have read the 300 word essay by Anna Zhu, but I can't see it anywhere, or am I just mistaken?

  Alexander Evensen Oct 27, 2009 10:37 AM


Hi Everyone.

Thank you all for your feedback, both positive and negative. We will refer to all the above comments as important feedback when preparing next year's Travel Photography Scholarship.

As the Program Manager, I would like to assure you that the process of judging was 100 percent fair and faithful to the judging criteria.

Prior to the judges receiving any information on the entries I removed name, location and even sex of the applicant.

The first round of judging was based on images alone and the second round was where Jason took both images and essays into account.

Jason Edwards takes the judging process very seriously and judged all entries fairly without bias.

I have posted Anna Zhu's winning essay for your perusal.


I hope to see you all again next year.

All the best.

Tara Parsons

  scholarships Oct 27, 2009 4:30 PM


well a lot of discussino has been there about what "PLACES" mean. I as a person too fully agree with most of the views that when the topic was PLACES and the event under worldnomads and Natgeo - the tru spiti would have been to consider pictures depicting places in true sense.

I dont say that the quality of the pics of the winner Anna is bad, or that she is not a photographer by any means, or that the officials have done anything wrong or faked things - but still there is a sense of discomfort in accepting portraits as winning entries in a competition under the topic of adventure or places.

Also I guess the concept of being a professionl was totally misunderstood - it should not only be financial earnigs but also the level of your involvment in the field. You see, if I am involved almost full time or even 50 % of my work time assisting a professional photographer or working as a photographer - then my level should certainly be above the amateurs or the non professionals

Congrats once again Anna - have a wonderful trip - but still I am not sure why have you so voilently opposed the comment about you being a professional. If you really are not a professionsl - why worry about any commnets? Also asposted in one of the comments - you have defined yourself as a professional in your website -

Pradeep Chamaria/prads12000

  pradeep Chamaria Oct 27, 2009 5:59 PM


After reading Zhu's written submission I'm even more puzzled as to why she was chosen. She's travelled a lot and is already on her way to do what she wants, and it's got just about nothing to do with nature and animal photography. Why not chose someone interested in just that, who hasn't had the chance to travel a lot who is not on their way as much as Zhu? I don't get it at all now, even less than before I read this.

Not only does her photographs, which I do like, just not in this context, not fit the brief very well, but what she writes clearly shows she's not into nature and animal photography at all.

This is such a mystery to me, I'm in shock here.

  Dejected one.. Oct 27, 2009 6:54 PM


well, first thought - I am amazed...about how a photo can impact a person. (Good or bad or indifferent)

interesting debate people, always welcome i believe. I thought long and hard before my submission about how I captured a sense of place...yes most of that included the people i met. However i think a balance was essential...i tried a story using a range of scenes from cambodia. oh well...so many amazing photos...what a hard task!!

I felt only 3 images told me a story in the winners submission...not though in the couple portrait (much publicised) in the driveway surrounded in shadow. People in a place always tends to tell a story but I did feel there was no balance and i felt like i was looking at the same photo a few times, sorry...but true

I loved the one yaya portrait photo - outstanding!!!! and the caring wife, amazing!!! the notes photograph though was perfect!!!!

Congrats to the winner. Good luck on your journey.

You look well on the way to making your photography have an impact on the world. I think oxfam is stupid for not employing you...

good luck and i look forward to hearing about antartica!!!!!!!!!!

  wanderer77 Oct 27, 2009 9:32 PM


'War is peace. Ignorance is Strength' - George Orwell

  Jim Gent Oct 27, 2009 9:41 PM


For my pennyworth, I think the key word in the brief was "story". And stories are often best told of people. Categorising Antarctica as just nature or place would be wrong, unnecessarily limiting. There's more to it then penguins and icebergs, indeed if the winner came back with a portfolio of just these, no matter how wonderful, I'd be disappointed. As well as the stunning nature, there is real human impact on that continent, and I for one would be interested in a photographic documentary of this less told side. Of the communities that live and work there. From the massive effects of oil exploration to the small things that people do to make living there possible, human. I'd like to see a story like this. That and an odd majestic iceberg :-)

  Alan Humphris Oct 27, 2009 9:47 PM


"A professional is a member of a vocation founded upon specialised educational training. The word professional traditionally means a person who has obtained a degree in a professional field,or a person who performs commercially in a field typically reserved for hobbyists or amateurs." - Wikipedia.

By reframing the definition of a 'professional' in terms of revenue only, the person/persons responsible have allowed someone to win a competition who under all other definitions of the word can only be described as a prosince she is indeed by training and current photographic involvement, a professional. No matter who you may slice it, a degree in Visual Communication and her photographic pursuits do not add up to 'amateur or hobbyist'. This is grossly unfair to those competitors who are amateurs and hobbyists and who have not benefited from a professional training and it's also unfair to Anna putting her in an invidious position. I call upon whoever is ultimately responsible for this egregious state of affairs to step up to the plate and be accountable. You have made a dog's breakfast of it and people - quite justifiably so - feel that an injustice has been committed. Have you no shame at all?

  Jim Gent Oct 27, 2009 9:55 PM


Sorry Jim #82, no, I don't believe we have made a dogs breakfast of this at all. Anna is a fine choice. We certainly have the utmost pride both in running these travel scholarships, in awarding the prizes and in seeing the results. All of our travel scholarships are not just for amateurs - they are aimed squarely at an audience of people training in a field who are passionate about their field and presumably want to be professional. No, we have no shame at all.

Simon Monk
Founder, WorldNomads.com

  simon_monk Oct 28, 2009 12:02 AM


Re: Entries #77 (P.Chamaria), #82 (Jim Gent)and #83 (Simon Monk, WorldNomads Founder)

1. Thanks to Pradeep and Jim for expressing my thoughts (#44).

2. To quote Mr.Monk (#83): "The Travel Scholarships are aimed squarely at an audience of people training in a field who are passionate about their field and presumably want to be professional".

The above quote contains a few words revealing the intent of the contest. Words like "training in a field" and presumably want to be a professional". The quote fits Ms. Zhu's C.V to a tee. (I may have to read Zhu's winning essay later).

Am I wrong in saying that the majority of the contestants here do not aspire to become a professional photographer? And that this majority of people here is hoping to catch the free ride to an exotic place? I, for one, is a professional engineer who does not aspire to become a professional photographer. Nor am I interested to join a photo tour or a photo workshop.

I hope I am wrong regarding the intent of the free scholarship.

If I am right, I will not enter in the 2010 contest. Why? Because the intent of the contest will not suit me. More importantly, I don't want to be a "filler" in the grand scheme of things.

Deleting the participant's name/sex/country of origin as per Tara (#76)does not help a bit. Deleting the submission essay will do it. But here is the problem: The essay is required so WorldNomads can select the individual to fit its intent. That's why the essay is alloted lots of "points". In #44, I suggested to do away with lengthy captioning and essay-writing.

I now realise that WorldNomads will not agree with me because I am not a suitable candidate to win its photography scholarship.

Just my 2 cents. James.

  James Ahlan Oct 28, 2009 2:08 AM


Everytime I read more and more, I feel more frustrated. Who is a professional for the organizers? According with Anna's wrote, her studies are related with the photography, and she works with photographers; she has a website to sail her pictures (but she says, she is not lucky to sail them, that doesnt mean, that she is not pro), and in another website, she title herself us INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHY PROFESSIONAL (so, she is pro for some place, and she is not for some others). If she has all that jobs related with the photography, how she can not get more than the 25% of her salary? This scholarship is to lear how to photograph, but us we can see in her website, she knows how to do it.
Another thing is "the story about a place". Her story is about a family or about people. That doesn't mean that in a story about a place cannot have portraits. The portraits can be some pictures of the story, with some others to show "the place". But she just show a story of people.
Anna and her story doesnt fit in this scholarship. This doesnt mean that she is not a good photographer or that her story is not good.

  Somebody from somewhere Oct 28, 2009 3:58 AM


wow, I thought I was disappointed after seeing the blatant disconnect between the written brief and the judges "helpful" comments vs. the actual finalists selected. But now after viewing the shortlist...this is terrible. You guys need to get a photo EDITOR to help you select real, successful photo stories, (that also fit the assignment.)

  even more disappointed Oct 28, 2009 4:42 AM


also of note is that Anna's written statement is 511 words long... I took great pains to limit my statement to the prescribed 300 words as set out in the brief.

I congratulate Anna and the other shortlisted entries for excellent work. I believe that Anna is a worthy winner. Although I appreciate that refereeing such a photo contest is inherently subjective exercise, I feel that the object parameters/requirements for such a contest be subjectively enforced.

ie. if the entrant fails to properly label his/her images when uploading to flickr - disqualify
if the entrants fails to complete the application form - disquality
if the entrant fails to keep his/her statement under the word count limit - disqualify

The organizers set the rules and applicants must adhere to these requirements. The objective rules MUST be applied consistently and without exceptions. That is the only thing the organizers owe to the applicants.

  withheld Oct 28, 2009 5:15 AM



I congratulate Anna and the other shortlisted entries for excellent work. I believe that Anna is a worthy winner. Although I appreciate that refereeing such a photo contest is AN inherently subjective exercise, I feel that the object parameters/requirements for such a contest be OBJECTIVELY AND STRICTLY enforced.

  withheld Oct 28, 2009 5:17 AM


To go on the scholarship which is better, someone with the demonstratable desire to be a professional, who takes real steps to learn the craft, gain experience where possible, makes an effort to make it happen and for whom the scholarship could lead to a bright career? Or, someone who loves travelling, experiencing the world, wants to share, make a difference, but at their own pace and has no intention to do so full time?

For me, neither is better, both should enter, it comes down to the images and the story told. A story only World Nomads can judge what fits with their own scholarship, we can but interpret.

Being a travel based company, offering a travel scholarship gives a definite bias to the way people interpret the brief so perhaps World Nomads should have made extra effort if they had something broader in mind. And if there was a bias towards want to be pros then that should be clear (but I don't think this was the case). Clearly though, enough people did interpret it in the way they envisaged.

Just by entering this competition, focusing on what I would want to gain from it, and trying to interpret the brief I have learnt much. Better luck next year! :-)

  Alan Humphris Oct 28, 2009 5:23 AM


Would love it if the shortlist included images next to their names. ...Make it easier than looking up each individually? Tina, Simon, Chris-- Any chance we could make something like that happen?

So excited to have made the shortlist this year!! THANK YOU for the recognition.

  michael Donovan Oct 28, 2009 8:36 AM


Everytime I read more and more, I feel more frustrated. Who is a professional for the organizers? According with Anna's wrote, her studies are related with the photography, and she works with photographers; she has a website to sail her pictures (but she says, she is not lucky to sail them, that doesnt mean, that she is not pro), and in another website, she title herself us INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHY PROFESSIONAL (so, she is pro for some place, and she is not for some others). If she has all that jobs related with the photography, how she can not get more than the 25% of her salary? This scholarship is to lear how to photograph, but us we can see in her website, she knows how to do it.
Another thing is "the story about a place". Her story is about a family or about people. That doesn't mean that in a story about a place cannot have portraits. The portraits can be some pictures of the story, with some others to show "the place". But she just show a story of people.
Anna and her story doesnt fit in this scholarship. This doesnt mean that she is not a good photographer or that her story is not good.

  Somebody from somewhere Oct 28, 2009 9:09 AM



Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions. We have all been overwhelmed by the response.

I strongly back up our Founders views on behalf of the entire WorldNomads.com team that we feel no shame at all in the way we have approached picking the winner.

We feel Jason has made an excellent choice in Anna and greatly look forward to her finished work.

We feel no regrets in our choice of Jason as a mentor who will give Anna an amazing opportunity to continue building her skills, as any mentorship should provide.

We are committed to improving communication across all of our scholarships. We are committed to providing more transparency where we can and will endeavour to provide more 'clarity' around future scholarship briefs as the community have asked for in their responses. Will continue to look to provide opportunities where everyone can get involved, be given the opportunity to develop their skills and share their experiences.

We sincerely hope you will continue to support us in this endeavour, continue to voice your opinions and help us strengthen this program for all.

Thank you to all

Chris Noble
General Manager

  Chris Noble Oct 28, 2009 10:55 AM


Hi Everyone,

Just in case you thought I was in hiding I am not. I was repeatedly clicking the wrong link over the past few days and so was not seeing the posts. Here are several specific responses and then a more lengthy response at the end.

Once more into the Breech!


#5 Jim, Ahh, deep black shadows… These are a wonderful thing when used appropriately. Many long-time photographers lament the loss of true blacks and deep shadows that occurred with the advent of digital photography. If you have not shot transparency film and seen the difference please do.

#15 Stephan, judge’s comments coming sorry, I have been swamped trying to prep for the Amazon next week. Will give some thought to the placings.

#17 Kris, if you had read my judging process you would know the finalists were judged anonymously. The fact that two were from Australia was purely coincidental. Obviously black and white pointing is allowed and many people dodged and burned even if I do not do this myself. I judged what I felt was excessive.

#26, Senior Lecturer from the College of Fine Arts at the University of NSW, Dear Sir/Madam, if you are in fact whom you say you are then you would be well aware that to state a professional title and position at an educational institution then common practice let alone courtesy dictates you list your name with said titles. This is an event that encourages non-professional photographers to expand their skills, and of course, you may educate your students as you see fit. We will be happy to award next years event to someone who does enter.

#38 Jing, you are wrong there were no mistakes made. Many, many people made fine entries, in fact more did than did not. Over the past two decades I’ve learnt many things from Editors and one is that some people, no matter how much coaching you give them, will ever understand an assignment brief.

#42 Alexander, it was 1050 entries of 5 i.e. 5250 images. My concern in judging all entries is that I would find it difficult to be fresh and objective for every entry. In all large competitions around the world, multiple judges operate for this very reason. I go over every entry 4-5 times so even if I started judging early then I risk not being fair to everyone. And I would be viewing 20,000 images! Next year depending on the number of entries, we might attempt to increase the number of finalists.

#51 James, thanks for coming back to Anna. I spent several days researching her history and conferring with both World Nomads and NG Channel that her experience was suitable. People continue to underestimate how seriously I take this…

As for the Nikon event, what would a professional gain from such a learning scholarship?! They are already working photographers and should not need my assistance or a free trip!

#55 Eddie, allowances are always made for foreign languages and the translation into English. After all, I spend much of my time struggling in places where there is no English. Rest assured I am very sympathetic to this and make my decisions accordingly.

#57 Clara, Thank you for your thoughts.

#82 Jim, Egregious! Finally, someone has used the word egregious! I have been reading all morning wondering when it was going to appear. Jim last year when I helped run the scholarship it was for students only, any students. This year we decided to open it up to anyone, student or otherwise. If we exclude professionals and we open it to EVERYONE else, how can that be fairer? In the photographic industry, the benchmark of 25% earnings from photography is ‘generally’ what is used to differentiate pros and amateurs; I do not specify that the industry do.

Do not make the mistake of forming an opinion of what is ‘ok’ based on what some photojournalists do. Many people in my industry manipulate imagery to sell papers, and there seems to be an increasing number of photojournalists dismissed from their positions for excessive treatment. Photography is very much struggling to maintain legitimacy.

As for the colours I completely agree as I struggle with this myself. I did not penalise if I thought the colour was natural only if it had been enhanced beyond reality. After millions of frames, I have an idea of what is correct even if some people think it has been enhanced and it has not.

#18 Jing, I sent you an email obviously, you did not receive it. That clause is specifically there to allow us to check RAWS should we have equal winners or if I have some doubts about an image. In this year’s event that was not necessary so no one was required to submit them. Again, after millions of frames, I have an idea of what is correct and what I am looking for. I rewarded or penalised portfolio’s based on the jpegs and was comfortable doing so on my calibrated system.


I have to say I am very disappointed with numerous posts following the announcement of the winner. In no other competition anywhere in the world, have contestants had such access to the primary judge. There is a way to express your thoughts and pose your questions and some people have failed miserably at this.

For twenty years, my goal has been to educate as many people as possible about looking at, and exploring their photography differently. I am now concerned that by making myself accessible to the wider community I may have in fact created an opportunity for people to tarnish what should be a learning experience for all. I will seriously consider whether to do the same next year.

However, I completely understand and sympathise with people’s frustration and disappointment so please allow me to ‘attempt’ to explain a little more about my decision. In addition, might I add, in no other competition anywhere in the world is there feedback from the judge after the competition.

So many people are still struggling with the definition of ‘place’. So, allow me to ask you a question for a change, “Why is visiting your grandparents home not a ‘place’”? More specifically, why is their apartment not a ‘place’? Anna does not live in the apartment she visits the apartment, it is by definition a ‘place’ she has visited. We asked that people "Shoot a series of photos that tell a story about a place you have visited."

I even made this post, “The images must be from a place you have visited and this could be as large as a country or as small as a corner store.” If you do not read my posts then it makes it difficult for me to help you. Maybe next year we should set up a separate judges post section for those who do not read all of the posts, just a thought.

Why is visiting this one location, repeatedly, to capture the essence of the ‘place’, not acceptable? In addition, look at the entries in the flickr group, how many of you used the depiction of people ‘IN A PLACE’ to tell your story. I cannot help but write that I am flabbergasted, so many of you did this!! THE MAJORITY OF YOU DID THIS!!!!! Yet, you question someone else doing it.

There is NO difference in telling a story about Mongolian Eagle Hunters in portraits or disenfranchised Cubans in portraits, or people in Parisian street scenes, to an elderly couple struggling with Alzheimer’s, they all occurred in a ‘place’ people have visited. If the winning images had been captured at five different locations then they would not have fit the definition of ‘place’.

As for the images being portraits, SO MANY OF YOU DID THIS!!! So many people chose to tell their stories through portraits of people they met, encountered or passed by, in the ‘place’ they were visiting. To further clarify a person does not have to be full frame to be regarded as a portrait. Many people also strategically placed people in their compositions making that person the focus in the image.

However, in the end if you the entrants, send us stories told with portraits we WILL judge stories told with portraits. The preliminary judges will select from all entries and I will judge their finalists. If you are concerned, about there being too many portraits send in something different next year. And yes, I am issuing a challenge!

This was not a portrait competition, thankfully, to be frank I am a little over-saturated with the dominance of poor portrait photography in the world at the moment. That being said I did not penalise any of the finalists for using portraiture, nor did any of the other judges in the preliminary rounds. Anna used this technique to tell the story about the ‘place’ she had visited better than the other finalists did.

And here we are again at the ‘story’ issue. Look at Anna’s images and forget they are portraits, forget they do not fit your definition of place, forget everything. Each image alone tells me a story, independently of the next image. Together they make a great STORY, a small window into the lives of these people. I spent two weeks just reviewing the finalists’ images in this manner as their ability to tell the story was crucial.

As for whether Anna has the ability to document a continent or the skills necessary to capture wildlife and life onboard ship, people are you serious? This, of all the posts I personally found the most insulting as that is what I am there to teach her! My role is to educate, nurture, correct, and expand the winner’s skills and teach them to see the world differently through a camera. To capture the best image they can at the time and tell a story about a travel destination.

I am their mentor in not only their photographic skills but in the way they behave as a photographer and how to represent themselves and their client. To instruct them about the biology of what they are seeing, and to document and to record it accurately. Anna has access to my equipment if hers proves unsuitable at times. My goal is not to turn Anna into a wildlife photographer, but to help her become a better photographer and represent what is important about photography. It does not matter if Anna never photographs another animal in her life, as that is not what the Scholarship is about.

In closing, and I am shaking my head as I write this, folks this is a competition for people not making a fulltime living out of their photography. If you only knew how much effort I have made to keep this an event for people trying to develop their photography, and not an event where the best Photoshop skills win.

Do you want to compete with professionals with years of experience and for the competition to look like every other over-manipulated smorgasbord on the planet? I do not, that would not interest me or move photography in the right direction.

Your personal critiques are welcome, within reason, but some are incredibly harsh especially from people who themselves are meant to be learning. It is a scholarship, a learning experience for everyone myself included. I look forward to next year’s event where I might even do a video post to save my fingers from typing!

Thank you for your interest it is appreciated but please might I ask that we keep any postings on a socially respectful level. After all, we are talking about a creative medium through which many of us express out dreams, desires and experiences.

Jason Edwards

  Jason Edwards Oct 28, 2009 11:57 AM


Jason - Many thanks for your clarification. I'm sure I'm not the only one to appreciate your openness and willingness to engage in this debate. Thank you. Thank you too to World Nomads for creating this entire project. Everyone's unseen hard work behind the scenes is what's made this happen - cheers. Whether from the process of creating work and submitting it, to thinking long and hard about the issues raised, this continues to be a valuable and rare opportunity with lots of learning windows. Fantastic!

In any debate, sometimes emotions can get the upper hand. I'd like to apologise if any of my prior posts have appeared to disrespect World Nomads, Jason or indeed the winner Anna. This was not my intention and I am sorry if I've hurt anyone's feelings. I wish everyone well from the bottom of my heart and am looking forward to viewing Anna's stuff on her return. Whatever our differing views are, we all share in common a love for photography, right? All we're trying to do is understand, hardly a hanging offence.

At the same time, respect is a two-way street and people tend to respond in kind. Is it possible that, however unintentionally, people might feel a little disrespected by the dissonance they see (rightly or wrongly) between the brief they were given and the winning entrant? (Anna, this must be quite galling for you, but I hope you can understand - without ego or defensiveness - that it's not about you personally at all. Everyone wishes you great success and I agree, Oxfam should give you a full-time commission:)It's about the perception of fairness). James Ahlan (#84) raises an important question which goes to the heart of this:

'2. To quote Mr.Monk (#83): "The Travel Scholarships are aimed squarely at an audience of people training in a field who are passionate about their field and presumably want to be professional".'

Contrast that with what was said on the site: 'Anyone can apply - this is open to photography students, lovers of photography or any non-professional trying to kick-start a career in travel photography. Remember this is a scholarship, a learning experience, and therefore will not be suitable for professional or Semi-professional photographers.'

People are not questioning these things for the sake of being argumentative, but for the sake of fairness, to add value and so that it can be better next time. I trust everyone has sufficient good-will to get that intention and to overlook any sense of offence. Clearly though, there is a great difference between the two statements above. Since Simon is part of the competition and is therefore not likely to be wrong about the stated intent, should it not have been disclosed with full transparency from the beginning? In that way, those entrants who are not 'in training', who are amateurs or keen hobbyists, could have been spared the time and trouble of entering a competition which they could never have won. Now it may be that further clarification from Simon or Jason will clear this up, but as it stands it seems that a vital criterion for the equitable judging of the competition, whilst known to World Nomads, was not divulged to the entrants. On the surface, that does seem quite unfair and - I won't use the e-word Jason since it seems to have a charge for you - but quite, well, just plain wrong. It's disrespectful, it wastes people's time and perhaps when people feel misused or abused or disrespected but can't quite nail why, they get a little fraught.

Communication, whether verbal or visual is the source of the world's woes, and it's no less so here. So I'm more than willing to be corrected if this is thought to be an unfair or disrespectful point of view. Is it?

Love and Peace

  Jim Gent Oct 28, 2009 1:28 PM


Hi Jim,

Just to clarify your issue the latter point is exactly how it wass, everyone and i mean everyone was equally judged, and anyone can enter. All entries were judged under the same guidelines and given none of the judges knew whether people were 'in training' means it wouldn't have effected the process.

I cannot speak on Simon's behalf but please remember Simon is referring to a series of scholarships run by World Nomads all of which have different criteria and entry guidelines. I am unfamiliar with what these guidelines are and it doesn't really matter in connection with the Photography Scholarship. It was as it was listed on the entry guidelines.

Without having spoken to Simon I personally interpreted his post in this way and from my own personal experience:

Among the hundreds if not thousands of people I have lectured, assisted, mentored, tutored and edited over twenty years the most common phrase I have ever heard is that they are "working towards" or "in training" or "working towards my goal" of becoming a photographer.

These are people who are everything from students to brick layers to doctors even real estate agents. I don't know why but that is how people explain their mindset to me. And it makes sense. From all of the entries I saw finalists and others, I would say more than 90% of people fit into the criteria I listed before. Even if they weren't studying to be photographers.

Please remember last years competition was only for students (any students although many were photography students). This year, as i stated in my post, was for everyone bar professionals. It makes no sense to have secret guidelines that would only make our job more difficult than it was with so many strong entries.

There is no conflict of interest or confusion or wasted effort, no secret guidelines or miscommunication. If people feel offended when comparing their entry with the winner and the guidelines, well I've tried to clear that up. But in the end some people will still be offended.

I had an story machine-gunned after I spent 4.5 YEARS, unpaid, shooting it in a leech infested swamp. I was told it didn't fit the guidelines! I was devastated but not offended, it wasn't a personal decision about me simply a judgement call by the editor on the work.

And here's the thing, most people got it right and our job of finding a winner was made more difficult. That says something about the guidelines i think.

With such limited time before my next assignment I just don't want people wasting good emotion on scenarios that don't exist. I would rather everyone go out and look for an interesting image.

Best Wishes


PS I definitely don't have a problem with the word egregious, in fact I love it even when it is directed at me!

  Jason Edwards Oct 28, 2009 2:46 PM


Congratulations Anna. Thanks to the World Nomads team and to Jason for considering me so closely for the first position! Many people have certainly been over critical in this forum and Jason has explained his thought process very clearly now... it is certainly unique to get that much feedback about the judging and behind the scenes!

  David Lazar Oct 28, 2009 3:10 PM


Fair dinkum :)

  Jim Gent Oct 28, 2009 5:30 PM


You did a great Job with your choice Jason! I know it was HARD work!
I hope you had a chance to have a look at Mike Donovan's work from the short list.. simply mesmerizing, I'm a fan!

  Mel Oct 28, 2009 5:53 PM


Thank you so much for your gift to photographers Jason and World nomads. This was an amazing opportunity and I thank you for letting me be part of it!

  w Oct 28, 2009 9:52 PM


Hi Jason,
I just want to reiterate what Jim said. I do agree, it is very rare for a professional photographer to offer so much helpful feedback, so thank you. Even though I didn't come in the top 31, I still appreciate the passion you have for making this competition as fair as possible. It shows it means a lot to you, it shows you are a real person and not afraid to set the story straight.
Thank you!!

  Margaux Smale Oct 29, 2009 12:24 AM


Hi all,

Jason, sincerely, thank you very much for your responses, they do help clarify things. But, pedantic that I am, your first response actually raised a question in my mind, and I'd like to try to explain my thoughts. Sorry if this is not the right forum to do so!

For me (and others I think), and as Clara (#57) pointed out, there is a difference between the original brief:

"Shoot a series of photos that tell a story about a place you have visited."

and how you and the judges interpret this as:

"Shoot a series of photos that tell a story in a place you have visited."

in particular the difference between: "about a place" and "in a place".

You may not see it as such, and absolutely fair enough if that's so, but to me there is a difference between Mongolian Eagle Hunters, disenfranchised Cubans, Parisian street scenes, and an elderly couple struggling with Alzheimer’s. The first three are uniquely tied to a location, culture, socio-economic situation, a particular environment who's story could be told with portraits or not. The forth a tragic event occurring to many around the world and not tied to a particular place. The first three the place is an entity in itself, much like society can be, with its story being told. The fourth the people are the story, who happen to be in one place. Taking your corner shop example, for me the shop would be the focus, with people actors making the place live. But with your interpretation, you could also tell the story of the shopkeeper as they make their living. For you both stories would be valid but for some only one would be. It is a very fine line, but I think the source of the disconnect.

We all bring our personal bias to the way we interpret "about a place". Given the nature of World Nomads and yourself, Jason, as an award winning environment photographer, its not unexpected that some people focus on the location as being the only aspect and are surprised and very disappointed when its not.

This is a great competition, with a fantastic prize, and its great that it is open to so many people. Long may it remain so. But by being such a wonderful opportunity it raises the hopes of many high, people who are passionate in the first place about travel and photography. So when there is a disconnect in their point of view, and their point of view is valid, don't be surprised by the strength of feeling in response. Indeed see it as a success of sorts and learning opportunity! Without doubt Anna is a worthy winner, and I look forward to seeing her images from Antarctica.

Anna, what must you be thinking! :-) Congratulations again!

  Alan Humphris Oct 29, 2009 3:23 AM


Hi Guys,

Thanks for your follow-up thoughts.

Alan I think you have touched on a crucial issue that might be an interesting one for me to explore in the lead up to next years event, and that is and Editors interpretation in comparison to the photographers.

This is, without doubt one of the greatest causes of frustration between both sides of the photographic process. Sooo many stories are shot for all types of publications that do not match up with the vision the Editor had. Sometimes, actually often, the fine line you describe is the difference between success and failure.

Reading your example I understand your point of view (as I have everyones), but I still interpret it a little differently. This is likely aided by the fact I've had successes and failures in this exact situation.

The unfortunate thing is that it's impossible to have everyone on the same page, I wish it wasn't but it is. I tried to explain 'place' in several posts and people still interpreted it differently. And here's the real difficulty for me, I have to keep the brief as simple and as clear as I can so that people who haven't had my experiences still stand a chance of winning.

Does that make sense ie I don't want to give a complicated brief that is open to too much interpretation. And here we have what I regard as the simplest and most open-ended brief causing.... It's tough! When I came on board this brief was already in place and for the above reasons I felt and still do, that it works well. The way we all see things differently is what makes the world go around.

Maybe next year I'll try and give a little more tuition on thinking like an editor, although that might open a bigger can of worms than you can imagine!! And, my experiences are NOT the definitive guide on such things.

However I have already done this to a greater extent through my judging criteria. Have a look at my ten points and then imagine you are an editor looking at countless images, these are some of the things, literally, they are looking for. Some people realised this and some didn't, some didn't read them at all.

Thanks again, and good luck with your next frame it might be the one that changes your life.


  Jason Edwards Oct 29, 2009 7:15 PM


Jason - I actually did get your email and also sent a quick thank you in reply although, ironically, you didn't seem to get my email :) As others have pointed out, it is very rare to obtain so much feedback from pros, so thanks once again for taking the time out to address our concerns.

  Jing Peng Oct 29, 2009 7:43 PM


Wow - talk about sour grapes. I've been sitting here reading the responses for the past week and can't take it anymore. Believe me, I am as disappointed as the next person, but this is a competition. The judges' decision is final, even if you don't agree with it. Remember that old adage, art is in the eye of the beholder? Are you going to bitch and complain every time a photo editor doesn't choose one of your photos to illustrate a story about something YOU think your photos depict? No.
I am a geographer by training and think I have a pretty good idea of what 'place' means. Although I study glaciers (and so thought I'd be a good fit for the scholarship!) and not human geography, place is place. Place doesn't only mean a landscape, animals, or icebergs. People are an integral part of just about any 'place', and the complaints about Anna's photos being about 'only' people holds no water with me.
Learn from it, and submit better photos next year, kids.
Although I don't see the photographic merit of all the finalists, I commend Jason and the other judges for the monumental task they did. Good luck Anna in this and future pursuits.
Cheers, Dan Shugar

  Dan Shugar Oct 30, 2009 2:24 AM


Hello Jason (#102), I am just thinking aloud here. The contest brief was clear to me. And then you gave out another pointer, re: your reference to a corner shop as being a "place" too. Beautiful, I said! Instead of submitting my 5 pictures taken in a tribal village in the Amazon, I opted to send in my 5 pictures of a "corner shop" which dispenses gasoline (petrol) in one-liter glass bottles. The "place" is a shop in Indonesia. The glass bottles are kept in a small wooden shack located in the front yard of a house. The story is interesting because I have never seen gasoline sold this way. These pictures are now being used for educational purposes in the Health and Safety Department at the company where I am working as an Environmental Engineer. Lots of excellent pictures from the 2009 photo pool can serve to "educate" viewers, never mind telling the viewers a good story for the 5 seconds' worth of "judging". These special pictures fell through the crack before you got to see the shortlist. Am I complaining? No way! This contest is all about luck and the intangible. The point system which is used to grade a picture is only part of the judging process. This contest is all about luck and the intangible. The latter lends to the sparkles in the judges' eyes.

A story told in pictures that has an educational element is interesting too. This is one of the intangibles.


  James Oct 30, 2009 3:44 AM


I do want to thank the judges for this venue to discuss the contest, and for their responses. It is indeed unusual for contests to offer this. But I have to agree with the above poster - the judges really missed the boat on interpreting their own brief - there is a subtle but very important difference between the brief:

"Shoot a series of photos that tell a story about a place you have visited."

and how the judges interpret this as:

"Shoot a series of photos that tell a story in a place you have visited."

in particular the difference between: "about a place" and "in a place".

Any and every story happens "in a place." That misinterpretation opens the contest up to any story one can dream up.

Everyone is so upset, because they focused on telling a story "about a place" as they were instructed to do. The judges still don't seem to get this.

  missed the boat Oct 30, 2009 4:43 AM


WOW! Is all I can say.

Congrats Anna and have a great trip.

Thank you Jason for all your input on this forum. It helps contestants like me better understand what you were looking for. And hopefully I will have better luck next year.

Anna's story and photos were drastically different from my style and all I can do is learn from this experience and from her product, which is moving and beautiful. They are personal and intimate photos, not just pretty pictures. After all there is a huge difference between pretty looking pictures and the beautiful emotion portrayed in some photos.

Much love,


  Kat Carney Oct 31, 2009 7:19 AM


Not sour grapes, just taking advantage of an unusally accessible judge to learn from :-), but you're right Dan, people are as much about place as a natural scene, or a man made one.

missed the boat, the judges interpreted the brief in the best way possible, i.e. the widest that still matched, allowing more people the chance of this opportunity.

Kat, yep you nailed it. Individually and collectively Anna's images pull an emotional response from the viewer.

Jason, thank you for your response, the last piece of the puzzle finally clicked for me!


  Alan Humphris Oct 31, 2009 9:58 AM


I must have spaced out and missed it all!

Congrats Anna, I really hope it's a valuable experience for you! (how can it not be... seriously. the trip down is enough to change your outlook on ocean travel!)

And than you Jason especially for your input and feedback on all of this, I think it's cleared up a lot of the negative response having you here post-decision. It's a very nice change from some competitions that don't offer much in the way of guidelines past "submit your best photos and tell us why you want to win".


-Brendan Henry

  Brendan Nov 2, 2009 11:46 PM


Still awaiting those shortlist comments!

  Stephen Ironside Nov 3, 2009 4:05 PM


Hi Stephan,

Haven't forgotten. I am in my sixth straight week without a day off and many of those days are starting at 5 am and finishing late, tonight likely midnight... It is 10.30 pm and I still haven't eaten dinner.

Due to the judging taking longer, I had to push a couple of Geographic deadlines back that they have called in before I head to the Amazon in two days.

To be frank I have been very hesitant given the events that transpired and I did not want to throw oil on the fire. In addition, National Geographic Channel have expressed concerns about what evolved and how I was represented, let alone the time it took away from my other commitments to the Society. Please remember National Geographic represent me and as such always have my best interests at heart.

It might be good to give both positive and negative feedback but that should be done directly and privately, with the finalists.

I do not want to, nor can I afford the time to address the countless questions these comments will raise. I will have very limited email contact for the next month and so people's thoughts will go unanswered. Again to be frank I have serious concerns (at least for this year), about posting such thoughts.

So given NG's concerns (and mine), I might draw a line through the public airing of this feedback and offer it privately to those finalists that request it. I have everyone’s emails from their entries so if people contact me following this post I will contact them directly. You can go first!

If the finalists choose to make my comments public on this forum that is fine by me, after all they are comments about you. Although it is with the caveat that I will not be engaging in public debate about those comments. In addition, I would expect that if the finalists did choose to do this they do so with professionalism remembering this is a National geographic sponsored event.




  Jason Edwards Nov 5, 2009 10:30 PM


I wish I hadn't spent so much time on the essay, I just realized that Anna's isn't inside the limit! I spent ages trying to whittle it down to make sure I could get every across without going one word over. I think I came in a 295 and was relieved? A bit stupid, looking back, an editor has never asked me to remove three words to make it fit...

  Brendan Nov 5, 2009 10:44 PM


Well done Anna, beautiful pictures and a good story.
Interesting to read some of the sour grape reaction here, though I can sympathize with them as it takes a lot of energy preparing for a submission like this.

That is why I had not submitted at all, as I am, well, travelling and have several sites to update. I would have posted at least several portraits of people as well, as it does not matter how many landscapes or features you capture, it is the human aspect that often makes the difference.

Check out http://ExposedPlanet.com . No I am not a pro either, according to the definition (yet), but would you all say that my portraits (roughly half of the photos) are not travel photos?

Cheers to WorldNomads, looking forward to seeing the Antarctica photos, it is a wonderful place.

  biketravellers Nov 6, 2009 3:44 AM


Hey Jason,

That is both perfectly understandable and acceptable. I know that the disputes that opened up after the winners were announced surely took their toll on you, your reputation, and your work, and I really appreciate the level of tolerance you've shown towards those involved. It's such an interesting thing--the level of emotion that surrounds anything related to NatGeo is so high that there will always be people disappointed by some aspect of it, yet what it offers is unmistakeably rewarding.

I welcome your comments (both positive AND negative) on my submissions, and you may certainly shoot them straight to my inbox. I'm mainly concerned with these, along with a more accurate placement (did I get 4th or 31st?) because I'm considering applying to some form of graduate school for photography in the next few months. I'm also redesigning my website (www.ironsidephotography.com), so your comments on those submissions would be priceless!

Enjoy the Amazon, and take care.

Stephen Ironside

(P.S. Your Bio-Images site is quite impressive--it's what I've been aspiring towards but didn't know it.)

  Stephen Ironside Nov 6, 2009 8:53 AM


There are a couple comments about Anna not sticking to the 300 word limit for her essay, and that she was at over 500 words.

If I remember right from when I entered, the part that was limited to 300 words was just the question "Please tell us why you should be awarded the 2009 Travel Photography Scholarship to Antarctica?" Her word count for just that question actually comes in at about 242 words (give or take depending on how hyphenated words are counted.)

I don't think the other two questions to which World Nomads have shared her responses are part of the 300 word essay.


  Sharon Snyder Nov 6, 2009 7:10 PM


I am sorry that the fallback comments have caused such a reputation that there are questions about this contest for future years. Please National Geographic, Nomads and Jason dont give up on the impact this competition has on growing artists and photographers! What you are giving is an amazing gift!

I thought the competition was excellent and I look forward to entering next year.Actually i thought the wording was fine...it was interpretations that altered and differed. I am glad you gave an open statement and thought the whole story theme came through much more than idea of place.

The debate has certainly aroused many a thought! i thank you for your personal answers Jason which is above and beyond what I ever expected. I applaud your effort and feedback.

I believe the winner is well deserving as her story touched me and that is what you asked - tell a story...that Anna you did. Congratulations. Thank you Anna for showing me a few lessons about how photographs dont always need to be loud and bold and can be subtle and quiet!

Happy snapping everyone!

  wanderer77 Nov 6, 2009 9:47 PM


Hi Jason,

I've heard from you already but the content wasn't a critique exactly since it mainly addressed a concern I had about original file submission. If possible, I would really appreciate it if you could send me an email about my submission with more specific comments on how I can improve my photography in the future.

Thanks beforehand!


  Jing Peng Nov 7, 2009 3:08 AM


Hi Folks,

Please excuse the brief response and any typos I have developed quite the viral infection just before flying out to the Amazon, fun...

#112 Brendan and #115 Sharon:

Anna's written response was only the second part of above that begins with "I should be awarded..." and totals 241 words. A good, concise response that had what I needed. The other components are posts Anna made in response to the fallout from the decision. They were in no way a part of the judging process.

#113 Harry, thanks for the thoughts. I had a look at your site and there are some nice frames there, well done. If you happen to enter next year just be aware that I can be brutal on heavy dodging and burning so personally I'd opt for the cleaner more open images in your folio. I know why you've treated some differently to others and that's fine. A couple of finalists (from memory) had well-treated images and then threw in a heavily worked image where the treatment destroyed a good frame. I penalised for this. Thanks again.

Stephen: Ah the website, the bane of my wife's life at the time it was created. So much work and I fixated it drove her nuts. I haven't had a chance to add to it or work on it for years, literally... Thanks for the feedback and hopefully I'll get around to an update in 2010 or 11 or 12... Yours is looking good too. Great front image, really grabs you attention. Were there specific collections you were submitting? I can have a look when I get back.

#116 Wanderer thanks! Next year i'll turn up wearing a fire suit and armour for the flaming torches and pitch forks!

#117 Jane and Stephen, will get onto it.



  jason Edwards Nov 8, 2009 6:59 PM


Jason- just got your feedback and wanted to thank you for your generosity in time and advice. Truly amazing that you have dedicated so much to this competition. Will learn from your feedback.

Just wanted to let you know. Good luck with Amazon and Antarctica expedition!

  Jane Nov 9, 2009 2:38 AM


Hi Everyone,

Jason is off in the Amazon now and I just wanted to let you all know that the Antarctica Expedition has been delayed by a few months.

Anna and Jason will be setting off from Ushia, Argentina on March 1st 2010 and returning with pictures March 17th. It turns out that this is a better time for photography.

We will try and post some news shortly after their return.



  scholarships Nov 20, 2009 3:28 PM



  eliza Sep 23, 2015 10:46 PM


I have seen some of Ana's work and it is truly stunning. She definately deserved this schlorship although the shortlist has some amazing talent too!


  Paul Hubbard Photography Dec 24, 2015 2:46 AM

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